Many zoos operate as nonprofits, but that doesn’t mean they skimp when paying their directors.

Akron Zoo President and Chief Executive Officer Patricia Simmons had a total compensation package in 2011 worth $230,143. That included a $40,000 bonus.

Her total compensation in 2011 put her on par with peers running much larger zoos in Toledo ($217,757), Cincinnati ($240,909) and Indianapolis ($264,862), according to a Beacon Journal survey of nonprofit Form 990 reports filed with the IRS.

But her pay also paled in comparison to those in Columbus ($326,412), Chicago ($436,603) and San Diego ($542,940).

Simmons is eligible to earn 30 percent of her base salary — $152,978 in 2011 before benefits and other perks were added — in a bonus each year.

The taxpayer-supported zoo has paid out more than $117,000 in bonuses to her in the past three years.

Simmons has no annual contract, but board members develop goals for her. The bonus is tied to everything from corporate donations to attendance to opening new exhibits. The bonuses aren’t guaranteed and help drive Simmons to improve the zoo, board Chairman Robert Littman said.

Simmons received bonuses of $37,000 and $40,000 in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Although the 990 report hasn’t been filed for last year, zoo officials said her bonus was more than $40,000.

Bonuses aren’t unusual in the nonprofit zoo world.

Cincinnati Zoo leader William Maynard received $18,025 in 2011. Columbus Zoo leader Dale Schmidt got $63,000, while emeritus director Jack Hanna got $50,000. And Atlanta Fulton County Zoo chief Raymond King picked up $125,000.

As for Simmons’ bonuses, Littman said she has earned them, and he sees no reason anyone should criticize the payouts.

“All they have to do is walk through the doors of the zoo and see what we’ve achieved and what we’ve done,” he said. “We’re lucky to have Pat in this community.”

Simmons is a leader and is well-respected in the zoo field, said Steve Feldman, spokesman with the Silver Spring, Md.-based Association of Zoos & Aquariums. She is a past chair of the association’s board.

“She’s visionary,” Feldman said. “She’s someone that Akron is very lucky to have.”

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.